‘Little Women’ provides lessons on life remarkably relevant today

It’s a new year. We have a new president and a new sense of possibilities. Hopes should be running very high on this bright and clear morning.

Yet at the same time, we live in a time of uncertainty, of worry about the economy, and we read news articles every day about people losing their jobs and companies asking for bailouts.

It’s an uncertain time, and in times like these, many families turn towards what is comforting. They turn towards the things that really matter. And, when we think of it, those “things” really are never “things.” They are family, friends, good memories. And yes, these are all things we can do with less money.

Many people are now talking about doing more with less — less eating out, fewer big expenditures. And that’s why it has been such amazing timing to be involved with our local teen production of “Little Women,” a story that talks so wonderfully of simpler times and a family that did more with less.

For a century, Louisa May Alcott’s book has provided warmth and comfort and endless appeal to millions of families, especially girls. With that knowledge, the organizers of the new Vashon Teen Musical Theatre Project chose the musical version of “Little Women” for their debut project, set to begin next week at Bethel Church. In these times, the timeless story holds even more appeal.

I always loved “Little Women.” My friends did, too. We talked about which of the main characters we most related to. Was it Meg, with her sense of honor and duty but also her yearning to be accepted and socially included? Was it little Amy, who I remember viewing with great disdain, such a little brat earlier in the book but one who you feel a certain empathy for later on? Was it Beth, the wonderful character whose fate made many a girl cry? Or was it Jo, a tomboy with fire, imagination and humor, who approached life as a young feminist before her time?

I loved Jo, of course, as many other girls did. We loved how she was unconventional; my favorite part of the book was when Jo first met her neighbor Laurie, seeing the feeling of kinship between the two of them.

I was touched and excited when my daughter Emma auditioned and was cast as Jo in this new production last summer. She has been working hard since August to become my favorite March girl. The music for the show is wonderful, especially a song that Jo and Beth sing together (my favorite moment).

Other leads include Anna Rose Warren as Amy, Madeleine Wolczko as Beth, Lizzie Schoen as Meg, Sage Everett as Laurie, Maya Krah as Aunt March, David Katz as Professor Bhaer, Devan Barnes as Mr. Brooke and Megan Hackett as the March girls’ mother, Marmee. More than 20 actors are part of the production, from ages 11 to 17. The kids have amazing talent, and they are lucky enough to work with Marita Ericksen as their director and Rich Wiley, who is staging the show. Both Rich and Marita are talented themselves, of course, and I love seeing what they are doing with these kids.

As we approach the show dates, I find myself thinking again and again of the story of “Little Women.” It happens during the Civil War. The girls’ father goes away and is injured. They are happy to have a single gift each for their Christmas presents. And, on Christmas, they give their meal away to a starving family.

These girls find joy in simply being with their mother, reading a letter from their father, making plays and skits together. The book is about the warmth of family and how it sustains us and about how traditions matter. It is about how we can survive anything if we are with those we love. And, more than anything to me, it is about the love among sisters.

I look forward to looking around me in the audience at young girls, watching the stage and listening to the words and music, learning once again about this timeless story and learning about the appeal of “Little Women.”

These are indeed uncertain times, and many people are worried about the economy. But it may help to think of the words of Marmee (indisputably the best mother of literature, in my opinion): “Money is a needful and precious thing, and when well used, a noble thing, but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace.”

— Lauri Hennessey, a public relations consultant, has three children.

See the show

“Little Women,” the musical, plays at 7 p.m. Jan. 16, 17, 23 and 24 and at 4 p.m. Jan. 18.

Tickets are available at the Vashon Bookshop, Vashon Island Music and Books by the Way and are $10 general admission and $8 for students and seniors. The show will be held at Bethel Church, at 14736 Bethel Lane S.W.

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